In my previous post, I discussed how bail works in New York. The next question that usually comes up when discussing this topic is: what are the types of bail that exist? What happens after a judge just set a dollar amount of bail necessary to ensure your return to court? What do you do? How do you actually get your friend or loved one out? To answer that question specifically, you have two options. The purpose of this post is to discuss them.
The two options are straight forward. You can either have a loved one post the amount in bail in cash or they can get a bond. Posting cash bail is straight forward. If the judge set bail in your case in the amount of $20,000, then someone you know comes up with $20,000 in cash and pays it to either the court or to a correctional facility. In fact, if you know 10 people that each want to post $2,000, you can have them pool their money together and then they can post as a group and you will be released once the money is processed. Cash bail doesn’t necessarily have to mean “cash.” It could come in multiple forms of payment (i.e., actual cash, bank check, etc.) This is by far the best and easiest way to post bail because there’s no middle man and when the case is over and the bail exonerated (returned) then you get almost all the money back (a small amount is subtracted for processing and so on). It is also the fastest way to get someone out.
Unfortunately for most people who are held on large bail, they simply don’t know anyone who has the resources or who can get the requisite amount of money liquid to post bail if it is high enough. That is where bail bonds and bail bondsmen come in. To put it simply, a bail bond is a written promise backed up by money or property intended to ensure that a defendant will appear in court when scheduled. A bail bondsman is the guy who actually posts the bond for you. The easiest way to think about it is to think of the bail bondsman as the guy who you pay to put up the money so your loved one can get out. So, for example, if you can’t come up with the $20,000, you pay the bail bondsmen a fee so he posts the money you don’t have. He then makes you promise to pay him back if your loved one disappears and he actually puts up the money that bails you out. How much he charges depends on the case, who the bail bondsman is, and on the defendant. For example, the bondsman may charge you a fee that might be ten percent or so (but it really depends). Thus, in the $20,000 hypothetical, a bail bondsman may take $2,000 from you and in exchange, will post the bail. The big difference between posting cash bail and posting bond is that the fee you pay the bondsman is not returned. It is how much you paid him to bail out your loved one. So that money is gone forever in the same way the money you spent on a haircut is gone forever. You’re paying for a service that is being provided. Once the case is over and the bail is exonerated, the bondsman gets his money back, but you don’t get your fee back.
New York Criminal Procedure Law Section 520.10(1) discusses the nine kinds of bail that are allowed in New York. The first kind of bail listed is cash and the rest are different kinds of bonds. The differences in the bonds depend on much how collateral, the kind of collateral necessary to be posted by the person posting (referred to as the ‘obligor’) on behalf of the defendant (referred to as the ‘principle’), and who can post. For example, if the case is serious enough, a judge could set a “fully-secured bond” which means that the bond has to be backed up by either personal property equal to in value of the the bond or real property equal to twice the value of the bond. So if the judge sets $20,000 fully-secured bond, the bail bondsman can bail you out for a fee, however, you’re going to have to put up either personal or real (meaning land) property as collateral. Meaning, if your loved one then runs away, that property is forfeited. The idea is this helps ensure that your loved one doesn’t run away! A judge could also set a “partially-secured bond” in which the bail bondsman will bail him out but you need to post 10% of the bond in collateral. This way you physically lose that in addition to the bondsman losing his share.
The reason dealing with bail bondsman is tricky is because you’re basically trying to convince them that your loved one isn’t going to run away. If they do, the bondsman is on the hook, not you. So they are going to want to make sure their tracks are covered whenever they bail anyone out. Thus, the topic of bail, bonds, and bail bondsman can be tricky and complicated. Navigating this world can be almost as tricky as navigating the criminal case itself. Therefore, contacting an experienced New York criminal defense attorney is absolutely critical to help explain these issues and guide you in the right direction in these times of extreme stress.